Oklahoma's Cmdr. John Herrington, a former NASA astronaut who joined the state's Rocketplane Global Inc. aerospace company to fly tourists into space, resigned from the company Dec. 21, according to a news release.
Herrington, a former U.S. Navy test pilot who flew into space in 2002 as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, joined Rocketplane in 2005 as its vice president/director of flight operations, with the purported purpose of flying the company's XP space plane.
As an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, he was the first member of an American Indian tribe to fly in space, according to a recent bio. His resignation was posted on the Chickasaw Nation's website Thursday.
"I was fortunate during my tenure at Rocketplane to work with an incredibly talented group of professionals," said Herrington. "My decision to leave was a difficult one."
Herrington's departure is one of several obstacles that has beset the family of Rocketplane companies in the last year, beginning with a mass layoff of its design staff in the spring of 2007. In August, Rocketplane-Kistler, which had garnered a coveted slot in a NASA competition for a $250 million contract, lost the bid and filed suit against the agency.
In October, Rocketplane announced it had completely ditched the original design for its Rocketplane XP tourism spacecraft, and had started over.
In 2003, state officials awarded Rocketplane an $18 million dollar state tax credit. The company announced it would launch the XP in early 2007 with Herrington at the controls, but has since pushed back a possible launch date several times. "Ben Fenwick
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